What’s in a Name?

Over the last 55 years, the National Association of Free Will Baptists Board of Retirement and Insurance, Inc. (our official name) has grown. It has provided reliable savings and stable income for pastors, missionaries, teachers, and ministry workers. When we considered a transition in our name, we wanted to recall Free Will Baptist history and heritage, which brought our denomination together and moved us forward. Richland Avenue represents the denomination’s first effort to create national offices for our departments to serve the denomination more efficiently.

We are proud of our heritage and where we come from. We want to honor that heritage during the next phase of our ministry’s growth by developing more relationships with Free Will Baptist pastors and workers who may not pastor or work in Free Will Baptist churches or organizations. This would allow churches and ministries the opportunity to care for their ministers and enable us to offer more benefits and growth for the denomination.

The Board of Retirement had already operated under a few titles by the time it was established in our 1969 charter. Originally called the Board of Superannuation, the department was established at the 1935 organization meeting of the National Association. Superannuation simply means “regular payment made into a fund by an employee toward a future pension.”

General guidelines for the Board were approved four years later at the 1939 convention in Bryan, Texas. Mrs. J.E. Simpson, dean of women at Welch College for many years, served as the first chair. The purpose of the National Superannuation Board was three-fold: to provide for a minister’s family in the event of his death, to furnish regular income in case a minister should become permanently disabled, and to ensure income for the minister during retirement years.

Our title was adjusted to National Superannuation Board or National Board of Superannuation. (Various records use it both ways.) At that time, several national organizations were operating, but they were not in a central location. The denomination wanted a place for national departments to be centralized and able to work together.

In 1953, the denomination purchased its first National Headquarters building on Richland Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. The new building centralized all existing Free Will Baptist agencies. On July 15 of that year, the building was purchased for $19,000 ($220,000 in today’s dollars). The headquarters was two blocks from the original Welch College (Free Will Baptist Bible College) campus. This was a historic moment for the National Association, bringing together agencies and establishing a model of unity that still exists today among our national departments.

The purchase of that first building on Richland Avenue put all the national departments together in the same location and allowed agencies to work together to move Free Will Baptist efforts forward. Sharing resources allowed the denomination to support one central effort to make the work of the whole stronger.

In early 1969, a new pension plan, formulated and implemented by North Carolina pastor Herman Hersey, came to the attention of the National Board of Superannuation. They studied the plan, endorsed it, and requested it be extended to the entire denomination. At the national convention that same year, the National Association adopted the plan and renamed the National Board of Superannuation to the Board of Retirement and Insurance.

With every transition/name change, the department has increased services and benefits for our denomination. At the national this year in Tampa, Florida, we are proposing another transition. This name highlights that original headquarters building and the spirit of denominational unity that brought the National Association together. We continue to enhance the benefits and services we provide the denomination in ways that help to increase that denomination in the process.

We have chosen Richland Ave Financial as a name that both honors our heritage and calls back to the spirit of working together for the benefit of the whole denomination. We are proud of where Free Will Baptists have been, and we are excited about where the Lord is leading us in the future as we work together to further the gospel and His Kingdom by caring for the workers He has called.

This article was previously posted in the June/July 2024 edition of ONE Magazine.